Thank You, Representative Scott Holcomb! (A live report and discussion on the GSB hearing, webcast Jan 17)

Today’s hearing before the Georgia State Board of Education will be WEBCAST, thanks to Rep. Scott Holcomb! We also appreciate the State Board of Education for quickly recognizing and acting upon the need for transparency — and making this this webcast happen.

Go to: http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/State-Board-of-Education/Pages/Live-Webcasts.aspx

Tune in on your computer at 1:00 PM.

Join the conversation in the comments below.

+++
Download these relevant docs for reference:

The original inquiry addressed to Ramona Tyson, dated July 28, 2010
sacs-inquiry-letter

The report of the SACS special review team, dated October 17-19, 2012 (two years and 3 months after the warning to Tyson).
sacsspecialreport12172012

Below is a quote from the closing comments of the October SACS report:
The DeKalb County Board of Education has been afforded ample opportunity to come into compliance with the AdvancED Standards and Indicators as well as their own policies. Despite attempts of various experts and organizations to bring about sustained change in the culture and operation of the Board of Education, the extensive efforts, costs and resources expended in this endeavor appear to have been wasted. By admission of the very board members that received the training and opportunity to change the culture and pattern of behavior, the efforts of the members have been in vain. While the system was in a state of monitoring and consultation, some progress was noted. However, as soon as the monitoring concluded and the members were left to self-regulate, their old patterns of behavior re-emerged. The failure of the Board to effectively govern the system is having severe consequences on the system’s current and future operation. If this pattern of poor governance is not corrected immediately, thousands of DeKalb County students will be negatively impacted for years to come.

UPDATE: Click here to download the final consent agreement presented by the State School Board.

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143 Responses to Thank You, Representative Scott Holcomb! (A live report and discussion on the GSB hearing, webcast Jan 17)

  1. plusone says:

    Thanks Mr. Holcomb and DSW

  2. dsw2contributor says:

    Awesome!

    Check out this piece, titled “DeKalb Schools -Time To Pull The Band-Aid”, by Mike Hassinger that is posted on PeachPundit:

    http://www.peachpundit.com/2013/01/17/dekalb-schools-time-to-pull-the-band-aid/

  3. thedeal2 says:

    Common sense from someone we elected! Thank you, Scott!

  4. Below are the copied and pasted blog posts of our live reports on the hearing from the other post, “How to Get There From Here”

  5. Jennifer Hackmeir. Evidence will demonstrate that the triggering events for a hearing have been satisfied. Evidence will show that DCSS was placed on probation for 5 governance reasons. (lists) Recommends suspending the board with pay.

  6. Rocko Testone – Sutherland responds. Introduces the members of the DCSS board. All are there. Note the three that were just elected and have only served since Jan 7. Says board understands the seriousness. Although they don’t agree, they are committed to taking the recommended steps from SACS and committed to full accreditation. Committed to improving the school system. Been working on a proposed consent order to show commitment – with strict time frames and deadlines. Each would have to agree with all terms — all have agreed. Present a joint motion for consent order and agreement previously filed

    1 – board committed to devl of high level action plan – 11 goals?
    2.- eliminate working committees – steps already taken
    3- board will review and modify policies and practices
    4 – will release KPMG audit upon request
    5 – modify technology plan

    Suggest reconvening prior to April 30 – board required to achieve goals and report to state every 2 weeks. Allows elected members to demonstrate progress that reflects urgency and seriousness of issues at hand. Request a joint motion and enter the consent order.

  7. John says:

    Board asking for more time to get its act together … blah, blah, blah … ENOUGH! End the madness now. Drastic action is needed to shake up the current culture and environment.

  8. Hackmeir explains why she supports the consent order. Not routine or lightly entered into. Troubled by SACS report. She is a DeKalb graduate. People are deeply concerned. All members now recognize the seriousness and are committed to a turnaround. 5 times boards have requested time to address accreditation concerns. State board has always agreed. Usually gives 6 months. SACS will provide a follow up report. As noted, we have 3 new members who took office after the SACS letter. Terms are very tough – sets 5 substantive objectives outlined in consent order. Not asking state board to wait for SACS, instead, if board is not successful in achieving all 5, I will ask the board to make a recommendation to the Gov to suspend members of this board. If any time the state board loses confidence in the DeKalb board, they can reconvene in this forum. Recommends a short window (3 months) to turn the situation around.

  9. Each board member will now testify. Gene Walker is first.

  10. Judy Campbell says:

    Thanks for trying to make the webcast available. I’m not able to get it to work on my iMac, nor on my PC laptop. I’m hoping that someone there will keep posting updates on Facebook for me!

  11. Gene is sworn in and reads a speech. I am a retired county and state employee – served as assoc super, on board of DeK Tech, state service, housing authority, etc.

    Urge their support of the consent agreement. We fully realize the seriousness and gravity of the situation. Will address the 11 actions. We want to impress upon you that this is a sincere, conscious and collective choice. We will become a more functional board, improve our image and restore public trust.

    Already making progress. Only 38% of schools are wireless, but we approved a plan to make 100% wireless by fall. One to one tech plan in middle and high school by 2015.

    We pledge our commitment to full accreditation. We will uphold our pledges when we were sworn in.

  12. John says:

    Gene Walker: “We take this seriously and will address these matters … yada, yada, yada.” Talk is cheap. Actions of past years speak louder than any words. Time for drastic action.

  13. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    They have somehow blocked it from the system’s website. I was watching it and it disappeared????

  14. psdad says:

    State Board Member (SBM) Question to Gene Walker (GW)… Who do you serve?
    A (GW): the nineth district
    Q (SBM): Are you sure?
    A (GW): Yes.

    Wasn’t he elected “at large” (ie to represent everyone)…

  15. Our connection went down briefly, so maybe it is just your Internet provider. Please let us know what happens. It will be very interesting to see if DCSS actually blocked this webcast. We will report on that.

  16. Questions to GENE WALKER:

    Q: What is the date you began serving?
    A: 2008
    Q: Who do you represent?
    A: 9th district
    Q: Are you sure?
    A: yes
    Were you on the board for the first report?
    Yes
    Are you aware that those demands have not been met?
    Some have, some have not been met.

    Have you completed your board training?
    Individually or as a group? both
    Any training that could enhance ability?
    Yes, leadership, negotiation, how to change group culture. We can improve.

    Q. Under SACS report, standard 2 section B – balanced budget. Wondering what processes you have in place that your budget stays on budget — it sounds like even though you have a budget, you didn’t stick to your budget.
    A we’re working on it. We had a fund balance – something has happened. Clearly these are some items we’re working on. We’ve run into snags as we’ve insisted on information that staff has had difficulty procuring.
    Q Do you agree with the findings?
    A I agree with every one

    Q you’ve been on the board since 2008 and you agree with every corrective action. you outlined positive things you are committed to doing. Why has that not been done and why has it taken a SACS report and this hearing to address these things that should have been addressed in 2008.
    A no board member violated SACS policy. If I did I was unaware. I thought I did the right thing. SACS saw it differently.

    Q my concern is that you indicated that there may be a difference in SACs interpretation. Still think that or do you think they’ve identified huge issues or do you still think they’ve misinterpreted.
    A I think their recommendations even though I disagree with their interpretation

    Q I work at a job with a lot of employees. When they don’t perform you put them on notice. And it gets old and you have to do something. The SACS report is like that – it keeps coming back. Why do you think it’s different this time?
    A This is the very first time we’ve been on probation. We feel compelled this time to address it and correct it.

    Q one of the ways you get on probation is by not answering previous reviews and taking action. What is different this time?
    A I beg to explain. We were in the process of answering those. They were being worked on. We have 4 additional ones. The 4 inherited the old ones. (?) They are attached to the ones we are working on (?)

    Q can you describe your role?
    A to make policy and provide oversight to the superintendent.

  17. PAM SPEAKS

    District 8. Retired from system. Teacher, administrator. 2008 ran for board. Oath in 2009. Read her speech. You may hear the pronoun “I” but I am a team player. I could never have imagined that I would be here. I am disappointed, angry and embarrassed. Disappointed that my goall to provide a good education..Angry that the good things don’t get noticed and embarrassed…

    Committed to serving students. Working with fellow members to carry our SACS recommendations. Respectfully request clarification. Do not know if I am personally guilty. Too much time wasted. Too many children harmed. Please give the board time.

    Q – what do you think got you here?
    A – the items in the SACS report – I accept the report. I may disagree with the interpretation.
    Q – clarify interpretation
    A – ex – interference of board members in day to day – Clearly the admin does the day to day. I need clarification if I’m responsible for that one, as I have NOT done that. If I am guilty, I want someone to point that out. If I have, I will correct it.
    Q – what entity would you expect to point it out?
    A – I would expect AdvancedEd – but on a day to day basis – my fellow members or super should point it out to me
    Q – difficult question – do you believe the super will have the support of the board to do what’s necessary? Unique relationship – do you believe super has the capacity to direct the day to day work to allow the board to allow the board to become the board it needs to become? (tough question!)
    A – [doesn't understand Q]
    Q – there are things you can do, but there are things that surround that work that are important that only the super can do. The two need to come together.
    A – I don’t think it’s the resp of the super to fix the board. But she has the capacity to work to allow board to carry out roles as well as her…
    Q – have you participated in all board training
    A – yes, more than required
    Q – any training you should get that could help?
    A – I believe we’ve covered it but welcome other coverage/outside assistance. Notes help from attorneys and SACS.

    Q – Governing body acts responsibly and functions effectively. So there are specifics in the report to answer your question. Is that the way you conduct yourself in board mtgs?
    A – Absolutely not. [true - Pam does not]
    Q – trying to determine if you are a ‘body’ or a bunch of individuals – Quotes the ‘autonomy’ of individuals – do you do that?
    A – no – I rep a large district and represent all students
    Q – what is meant by ‘fix our own mistakes’ – like you said, it’s about the students and you mentioned adult causes – instead of working for students -it’s adult issues. If your looking for training – it’s there. Where’s the practice? If these things fall in place, good governance exists.
    A – [Seems confused] Brand new super with Victory in Classroom plan – was in process of putting new things in place – but not enough time to implement these things from the first SACS report. Second SACS review came at a time where they couldn’t see results. During all of this, we were working on the items and it was helping. We may have slipped backwards. Personally, I believe this is a wake up call.

    Q – I think if I had gotten one warning it would be a wake up call – I don’t think it would have taken another warning and probation to wake up. I think I would have been more on track to make things happen the first time.
    A – maybe that’s an area we could use some professional development

    Q – I see intimidation and interference. You didn’t see any of this?
    A – It said in a school – that means an individual and I can tell you that I never did that.
    Q – and that’s an issue – intimidation and lack of respect at a board meeting. And you say ‘something may have happened but I’m not aware of it’
    A – I interpreted that differently. I think there’s a way to ask a question without intimidating a person. I ask questions of staff all the time. I have never intimidated or asked a question disrespectfully. I’ve never witnessed a board member interrogating a staff member and I’ve never missed a board meeting. [then how did she miss those interrogations of Dan Drake by Sarah?]

    Q – this is the time to shed the light on things that you want us to know. Give us your interpretation.
    A – One example – in terms of interrogation of staff members – I disagree if it’s simply questioning. Can’t argue with something I don’t know – like the highlighting of board members interfering in schools. I worked in the county for 25 years and served on board for 4. I’ve heard everything. If I am guilty, someone has to tell me because I’m committed to change any behavior of mine. I am fully committed to working to correct anything pointed out that the board needs to correct. I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure a quality education for these children.

  18. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Gene Walker is quoted in the paper today saying he can’t represent everyone…

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/dekalb-school-board-tries-to-hang-on-to-jobs/nTy33/

  19. Others are having issues with getting this to work on MACs. If you have RealPlayer — which you must have — on your PC, it should work for you.

  20. John says:

    feels like amateurs interviewing amateurs.

  21. changeforgood says:

    I’m watching, no problem. So far I’m unimpressed with the state board as well, seem to be spoon-feeding the answers to their questions. Even so, Walker (and Edler? She looks different than last time I saw her), haven’t been able to answer adequately.

  22. John says:

    Let’s get to the Feature Attraction: “A Mom with a Calculator” starring Nancy Jester. Promises drama and mystery that will leave you crying and laughing.

  23. psdad says:

    I agree with changeforgood. It’s as if the State Board skimmed through the SACS report, but did nothing more to prepare.

  24. John says:

    To paraphrase Pam Speaks: “Don’t blame me, it was them.”

  25. We can’t wait! We have changed your title of the feature attraction, slightly … let us know if you object.

  26. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    Been trying for nearly 45 min. It’s blocked now! I am sick of this place.

  27. DeKalb BOE for dummies says:

    Got it! Sorry!

  28. changeforgood says:

    Aahh, embarrassed I didn’t realize that was Speaks. I had higher expectations for her! Yes, bring on Nancy. Just hope it is at a time when I can watch!

  29. John says:

    To paraphrase Marshall Orson: “Don’t throw us (newcomers) out, throw out the others.”

  30. Marshall Orson is up. He’s one of the new members. In office 10 days ago. Attended 2 meetings so far.

    Ran for board because he recognized the serious issues at hand. We understood that the 3 of us had the opportunity to set a new tone. We wanted to create an environment for consensus. Build unity. Fully committed to 11 required actions – but view them as a starting point. School boards have a singular responsibility unlike most public servants – ensuring that children receive a quality education. It is critical to find a pathway to consensus. Discussion and disagreement will happen but at the end of the day we have to agree in mission. I can’t give detail before Jan 7 but I can tell you that I we are committed. Children must get the opportunities they deserve and to which they are entitled.

    Q – did you run against incumbent
    A – yes – issues of board and system were part of my campaign
    Q – report says board members elect are already visiting schools, interfering etc.
    A – It is correct that I visited schools – consulted with super and informed her. In conformity of policy written March 2o12 – I don’t consider these ‘my schools’…

    Q – SACS report states disagreements and north/south divide
    A – We are a challenged county – racial history. Not so apparent to regular people as it is to people who might benefit from that perception. People want a safe school etc and that transcends race etc. We can build bridges. Build unity. Focus on what we agree on.
    Q – comment – I hear you saying youre a new board member – but that’s not relevant. We look at you as a board. We have no ability to recommend one person over another, we can’t, so don’t belabor that point.
    A – I only said it to give perspective to my answers.
    Q – when sworn in, what info were you given?
    A – Brief overview. Not in-depth training – I asked for that. We need it as soon as possible.
    Q – so no new board member training? You didn’t attend one in Dec?
    A – Super convened a meeting for new members with senior staff to explain their dept – and I believe that satisfies part of the 15 hours of board training.
    Q – did you receive info about new board training?
    A – No

  31. Tired Mom says:

    Dear Dr. Walker,

    You serve ALL of the citizens of DeKalb County. You were elected by District 9 at-large. Wish everyone would remember that.

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the EXACT problem with this BOE.

  32. John says:

    Jay Cunningham’s statement was less than 60 seconds.

  33. An on to Jay Cunningham
    (He has a cold – seems very nervous)

    Two term board member. DEKalb grad. Four kids Dekalb grads. Looking forward to working through this consent.

    Q – Have you participated in prof dev on an annual basis?
    A – yes ma’am 15 hours
    Q – Do you disagree with the findings?
    A – I feel we have an opportunity to take it further as we move forward. As we identify the role of the board and role of super. We’ve seen it join together. SACS has defined different roles. (lots of cell phone interruptions) Seen a culture change of how we work together as a group that needs defined. We need to work on gray area of responsibilities. As we work through this process I hope we come up with a solution that is good for everyone in the state. [Refers often to a gray area]
    Q – regarding culture- did you feel that there were no areas that needed addressed before SACS pointed it out?
    A – no – I think all boards can improve. It’s a learning process. There’s only one board member left [Sarah] who was here when I was elected. It’s going to take time for us to learn.
    Q – You mention this is an opp an we can do better – I hear the sincerity in your voice, but you’ve had two terms – why has it taken so long and this point to feel the sense of urgency?
    A – We have a 9 member board. We’ve been meeting and going to classes and learning how to govern. We’ve had a perfect storm. Super- to lawsuits to everything. I’ve seen different priorities that guided us away from what we should have been looking at rather than fighting the day to day – constantly trying to put our fires [how very true Jay!] Says he’s thankful for the new board members with different perspectives and different knowledge.

    Q – Report says board members yell, lashed out, interrupt, etc.. is that how you conduct yourself at a board meeting?
    A – no ma’am . Some things were presented in a form and fashion where questions could be asked and some wasn’t. As you respond, everybody have a different opinion. We realized that we have to have everything in front of us to have a discussion…
    Q – heightened oversight only resulted in temp improvements
    A – we did go through training – met with mr. elgart at his office several times. A lot of conflict of hiring super, lawyers fees, different things. I was disappointed – I felt we were making progress, but when the meetings stopped and other issues came to the fore [indictment] we lost sight. Biggest factor was trust with each other.

    Q – What sort of culture change do you see with the three new?
    A – big culture change. I look forward to them coming in with a positive aspect. We all know the importance of being on probation. We will make sure that whatever needs to happen, happens. I’ve already seen a change in attitudes. We have confidence in the super to work with us. There was already a lot of things in place in the SACS report that we was already working on.

  34. Refugee from DCSS says:

    The state BOE is worried about people yelling at each other in the meetings and there are cases of millions of dollars of fraud, crime, and plagiarism. They are asking Cunningham about board behavior in meeting and not about thousands and dollars of pizza. Who are these people?

  35. John says:

    To paraphrase Jay Cunningham: “I’m going to spit out mumbo jumbo that I think you want to hear and that has been vetted by my lawyer.”

  36. Todd says:

    the streaming is awful….I’ve hit stop and replay at least 20 times already

  37. Melvin Johnson

    Reads a statement. New member – district 6. Has a passion and commitment to serve boys and girls. Been in education for many years. Will work in a collaborative way with board, stakeholders and super to meet all of the actions AdvancedED submitted to us.

    Q – Previous question about new board members visiting schools = did you do that?
    A – since my retirement from the system in 2004 I’ve visited several schools – breakfasts, PTA, etc – when I was invited, not on my own. N
    Q – did you alert super ?
    A – that was not a chain of command for me – I only did this before I was elected as a citizen
    Q – from the time you were elected before sworn in?
    A – no – only if I was invited by PTA etc
    Q – Have you participated in new board member training other than 3 hours with super?
    A – no
    Q – have you received info on training?
    A – no

  38. John says:

    Streaming has worked just fine for me. Mac OS with Real Player for Mac 12.0.0 on Internet connection with about 1.5 MB download speed.

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